Sunday, February 5, 2012

2/3/12 RD Bulletin: Senate GOP Unveils Plan to Prevent 1-yr of Sequester

State of Play

Executive: Following news that France would pull its troops out of the Afghan conflict early, Secretary Panetta this week told reporters on his way to Brussels that the United States would end combat operations in Afghanistan next year and would shift to an advisory role by 2014.  However, his press secretary, Capt. John Kirby, was quick to point out that no major policy changes have occurred yet, and that U.S. forces could still “be engaged in combat operations through 2013 and 2014, probably right up to the end.”  While in Europe, the Secretary of Defense also will brief NATO allies on how the department plans to save $259 billion over the next five years.  Speaking with CNN’s John King last night, former Secretary of Defense Robert Gates called the notion that U.S. military power is in decline “ridiculous.”

The Air Force has released a new strategic document which will guide the service as it seeks to achieve its initial share of the $487 billion in savings to which the Pentagon has committed itself.  The document identifies more than 280 aircraft that have been selected for retirement over the next five years, as well as several expensive procurement programs that are slated for termination including the Light Mobility Aircraft and the Light Attack and Armed Reconnaissance aircraft.  The Air Force also will seek to cut 9,900 active, Guard, and Reserve airmen from the service and will reduce procurement of the V-22 Osprey by 24 planes over the next five years.

Earlier this week, the conservative Center for Security Policy published a report which purports to show the economic impact of defense cuts on a state-by-state basis.  The Project on Defense Alternatives maintains a resources page, entitled The Pentagon Budget and Jobs, that refutes the notion that defense spending is an effective means of economic stimulus.

Legislative: Five GOP Senators have unveiled a proposal to nullify one year of sequestration cuts to both defense and non-defense discretionary spending programs by reducing the federal workforce through attrition and hiring freezes.  The new legislative proposal is similar to a House bill (H.R. 3662) introduced by HASC Chairman Buck McKeon (R-CA) last year.  Speaking of the HASC chairman, in recent days he has called the White House’s move to end combat operations in Afghanistan in 2013 “premature” and vowed to “kill” the administration’s request for two new rounds of BRAC.  According to CQ Today, Congressional appropriators are moving forward with FY13 spending bills under the assumption that sequestration will be nullified.

In light of budget constraints, members of Virginia’s congressional delegation have written Secretary Panetta urging him to cancel plans to relocate an aircraft carrier from Hampton Roads, Virginia to Naval Station Mayport, Florida.  And Rep. Peter Welch (D-VT) along with 126 other Democrats sent a letter to the President urging him to keep his promise not to support efforts to cancel sequestration without achieving the requisite amount of savings required by the Budget Control Act.  Finally, CRS analyst Stephen Dagget has published a report that provides an historic perspective on the issue of “hollow forces” and calls into question Secretary Panetta’s recent use of the term.


Project on Government Oversight: McCain Plan to Avoid Spending Cuts is a Plan to Increase Spending
Sen. McCain (R-AZ) is introducing legislation that would reduce the federal workforce in order to shield the Pentagon and other federal agencies from automatic cuts.  However, cutting the DoD civilian workforce would force the department to hire more contractors, thus raising costs for the Pentagon at a time when it’s trying to shrink its budget.  (2/3/12)

Boeing-Textron V-22 Said to Be Cut $1.75 Billion by Pentagon
Bloomberg has confirmed what was reported in an earlier version of Reset Defense: that the administration plans on reducing by 24 planes the number of V-22 Ospreys that it will purchase, saving roughly $1.75 billion over the next five years.  (2/2/12)

National Interest: On Afghanistan, Panetta Leaves Questions Unanswered
Christopher Preble applauds the administration’s announcement that it will seek to transfer combat operations to Afghan security forces next year, but is wary of the fact that U.S. troops may still be engaged in combat and that no decision has been made on the number of troops that can be redeployed in 2013.  (2/2/12)

Other News and Commentary

Navy Times: Rep.: Hold Commanders Responsible for Budget
HASC member and veteran Mike Coffman (R-CO) has written the Pentagon urging it to hold responsible military commanders who violate spending restrictions through written performance evaluations.  (2/3/12)

Stars and Stripes: DOD: No Policy Changes, Despite Panetta Statement About Afghan Transition
A Pentagon spokesperson was quick to walk back comments by Secretary Panetta this week, in which he indicated that the United States would end combat operations in Afghanistan next year.  (2/2/12)    

Reuters: Republicans Eye Government Jobs to Limit Defense Cuts
A group of Republican Senators, led by Sens. John McCain (R-AZ) and Jon Kyl (R-AZ), has introduced legislation to nullify the first year of sequestration cuts by reducing the federal workforce.  However, the legislation faces increasingly difficult odds since Democrats seem dead-set on ensuring that increases in government revenue be a part of any plan to avoid automatic cuts.  (2/2/12)

CNN Security Clearance: Reality Behind the Changing Afghan Mission
Veteran CNN foreign affairs correspondent Nic Robertson looks at the underlying reasons for the United States’ announcement this week that it would seek to end its combat role in Afghanistan in 2013.  (2/2/12)

National Interest: No Revolution at the Pentagon
A former Carter Administration official, Amitai Etzioni, cautions those critiquing the new Pentagon budget that “Congress may alter the trajectory of this major defense policy, as it has with most others.”  (2/2/12)

Project on Government Oversight: Heritage Foundation Arguments in Defense of F-35 Are Faulty
Nick Schwellenbach responds to an AEI post defending the F-35 by pointing out that the expensive aircraft has experienced a number of problems that may make it inferior to the aircraft models it’s supposed to replace.  (2/1/12)

Air Force Times:
Proposed A-10 Cuts Total 29% of Inventory
A recently released Air Force strategic document shows that the service plans on retiring 102 A-10 “Warthogs,” roughly 27 percent of the current A-10 fleet, as well as 21 older F-16s.  (2/1/12) Air Force Boss Pushes Back on Cuts
The chief of the Air National Guard is concerned that budget cuts to the Air Force will fall disproportionately on the Air Guard, even though the Air Force has indicated it will increasingly utilize the Guard as an operational force.  (1/31/12)

Defense News: Bipartisan Strategy Takes Shape to Close Overseas U.S. Bases
With more than 700 U.S. military sites outside of the 50 states, a group of bipartisan, bicameral members of Congress are pushing the administration to examine closing overseas bases.  Raymond DuBois, a former Bush Administration Pentagon official, and David Vine point out several military installations and projects that could be scaled back, including the Marine Corps base in Ginowan, Japan.  (1/29/12)

Reports and Publications:

Government Accountability Office:
Defense Logistics: Improvements Needed to Enhance Oversight of Estimated Long-term Costs for Operating and Supporting Major Weapon Systems  (2/2/12)

U.S. Air Force: Air Force Priorities for a New Strategy With Constrained Budgets  (2/1/12)

Congressional Research Service: Arms Sales: Congressional Review Process  (2/1/12)

Congressional Research Service:
A Historical Perspective on “Hollow Forces” (1/31/12)

Congressional Research Service:
The Nunn-McCurdy Act: Background, Analysis, and Issues for Congress (1/31/12)

Congressional Research Service: U.S. Special Operations Forces: Background and Issues for Congress (1/11/12)

U.S. Special Operations Command: Fact Book 2012